Ogden will leave big shoes to fill

December 28, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

If the Ravens' game against Pittsburgh on Sunday is indeed the last game for left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, it will bring to a close the career of the greatest technical player in the team's brief history.

The Ravens have always been middle linebacker Ray Lewis' team, and deservedly so. Lewis was the No. 26 overall player drafted in the first round of 1996, chosen 22 players behind Ogden.

Lewis has become the team's emotional, spiritual and physical leader and was the game's most dominating force during the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl season.

Lewis would have been a great player even without those two big defensive tackles in front of him named Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, but they made him more effective.

Ogden never had such help. Every game for 12 years, he has been called on to block the other team's best pass rusher. Very seldom did the Ravens help Ogden block on the edge.

Each week, Ravens coach Brian Billick has had the comfort of knowing he didn't have to game plan for great defensive ends such as Bruce Smith or Tony Brackens.

Ogden has always been so technically sound and physically gifted. At 6 feet 9 and 345 pounds, he often played point guard during pickup basketball games early in his career.

Ogden has always had amazing quickness. His long arms have kept opposing linemen away from his body, and his long legs have forced players to run around him because he can cover so much ground.

And Ogden can knock most players silly with his punch. Few have ever run through him. In the past couple of weeks, I've heard rare criticism of Ogden, about his not playing hard and how he didn't deserve to be in the Pro Bowl.

He had a legitimate injury this season, and it was hard for him to meet the standards he set so high for himself.

But during the past 12 years, it has been a pleasure not only to watch the most technically sound player in team history but also possibly the best offensive linemen to ever play the game.

Ogden has set a standard that might not be matched again.

Neuheisel's future

It appears Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel has a good chance of becoming the coach at UCLA, and that would work out fine for him and the Ravens.

It's time for Neuheisel to move on, because his career was becoming stagnant, and it's apparent the Ravens will have to make changes at the end of the season.

When the team wins only four or five games and the offense stinks, somebody has to be the fall guy. Neuheisel deserves better.

Memo to the owner

A lot of Steelers fans are expected to buy tickets and attend Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium. Some Ravens fans sold their tickets to deliver a message to owner Steve Bisciotti.

The Ravens' fan base is upset, and they want changes. They don't want these same coaches and players back in 2008.

They want some hope, and if they don't get any, they are prepared to sit at home instead of coming to the stadium to watch a team that can't score points.

Again.

Right routes

Third-year wide receiver Mark Clayton is having a confidence problem, and it showed last week when he dropped two passes against the Seattle Seahawks.

Clayton isn't happy about the lack of passes thrown his way, but he isn't going to complain to the coaching staff. He doesn't believe he has enough influence yet.

But what Clayton and the other young receivers need to work on is setting up their pass routes instead of running just to get to a spot.

The two best at setting up pass routes are wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap.

Crying time again

If the Ravens' public relations staff continues to whine about the team's injuries this season, I suggest they call in sick and forfeit the game against the Steelers.

Enough already. The Indianapolis Colts had a lot of injuries, and so did the Buffalo Bills. Both teams managed to win more than four games. Give it a rest.

With Lewis possibly missing his second game in a row with a hand injury, this would have been the perfect time for rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess. But Burgess went on injured reserve with a thigh injury in mid-October.

The Ravens, though, like his speed and size. He is versatile enough to play inside or outside. It would have been great getting him some playing time in place of Lewis.

As far as the other linebackers are concerned, it looks as if the Ravens are going to put the franchise tag on outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Crack-back payback?

Also, isn't it funny that Ravens inside linebacker Bart Scott failed to say anything negative about Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward this week? He might not say a thing, but I bet Scott has been dreaming about getting revenge on Ward since those two infamous crack-back blocks that took out Scott and safety Ed Reed earlier this season.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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